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Macarons August 30, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Sweet things.
Tags: ,

So, I was going to write a post about cooking pig’s ears or some other savory thing, when I got distracted by something arriving in my kitchen…

Isn’t it pretty?! This was an early birthday present from H and his family – they all chipped in and bought me a Kitchen Aid. It arrived early, and they didn’t want to wait until my birthday to give it to me (my birthday isn’t until November) – and this way I get to use it for an extra 3 months!

After I got over my excitement, I started considering what I could make. Of course, rather than starting with something simple, I decided to try and make macarons. Macarons are a cookie-like dessert made from almond meal, sugar and egg whites. Two shells are sandwiched together with filling to create the macaron. What that description doesn’t tell you is that they are notoriously fickle and delicate – and can be ruined in a moment during the creation process. What better way to test out my new Kitchen Aid than by making macarons?!

I started by doing my research. I looked at a lot of sites, and the one of the ones I found the most useful was Syrup and Tang (I have linked to part 2 of his macaron guide as this is the one with the recipe that I followed, but the whole series is worth reading). I decided to make the French meringue version of the macaron recipe – although it is considered more temperamental, it did not involve heating sugar and the use of candy thermometers. I made 3 batches of macarons over the weekend so this post is a combination of the 3 attempts. And yes – attempts is definitely the best word – while I was quite happy with the end result, I still have a long way to go before I perfect the art of macaron making!

To begin, I whisked two egg whites until they were frothy, and began adding the caster sugar bit by bit until it was all combined. I continued to whisk the egg whites until they had formed peaks.

I had already measured out my almond meal and icing sugar, and had sifted it to get rid of any larger pieces (in the first batch I made, I added some matcha powder to the almond meal/icing sugar mix too). Once the egg whites were whipped, I added the almond mix bit by bit into the egg whites. Getting it to the right consistency was difficult to judge – the most common description says that it should be the consistency of “flowing magma” – and I think I undermixed the third batch – but here’s what it looked like:

I piped circles of the mixture onto a sheet of baking paper, and left them to rest on the counter. Most recipes state that you can leave them from anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours – when I checked them after about 40 minutes, they had gone firm and were no longer tacky to the touch.

Now, normally what is meant to happen is that the little swirls on top of the macarons are meant to sink back gracefully into the mixture as it settles on the counter. This didn’t happen to mine and I think it was because it was too thick and slightly undermixed. However, that wasn’t going to stop me cooking them!

Like everything else in the macaron creation process, cooking times and temperatures are up for debate. It was further complicated for me as I have a fan-forced oven (and I can’t turn the fan off) and most recipes seemed to assume a non-fan oven. I tried each batch of macarons at a different temperature and found that the best results came from cooking the macarons for 160°C for 10-11 minutes. I covered the top shelf of the oven in foil to try and stop the tops of the macarons browning before the insides were cooked.

As you can see I wasn’t entirely successful in stopping them from going brown! And the tops weren’t flat – which I wasn’t surprised about after seeing the batter. But they had feet, and had risen and came off the baking paper! I iced them using a standard buttercream mixture which I flavoured and coloured. Here are the three batches I made, with my comments on each one:

Green tea macarons, flavoured with matcha powder, with vanilla buttercream filling. I think the matcha powder affected the ratio of dry to wet ingredients slightly, as they were very chewy and dense, rather than being light and airy inside. They also browned a bit while cooking. Having said all of that, the flavour was amazing, so I’ll definitely have to experiment using matcha powder again. I was pretty happy with these as my first ever batch of macarons but was brought down to earth with the second batch I tried…

Ouch. My internet diagnosing of these leads me to believe that I overmixed the batter – and overcooked them too. The batter was thin and spread while it rested, I got no feet, and they cracked. Ahh macarons – you definitely showed me who was boss! These were rosewater flavoured macarons with vanilla buttercream filling. They still tasted great even though the shape and texture was way off.

The next day, I decided I should really crawl before I walked, and made a basic batch of macarons, without adding any colours or flavours to the macaron batter. These are the ones you can see in the preparation photos. I separated the buttercream into three batches, and flavoured them with peppermint, orange and rosewater. Here’s the result:

While certainly not perfect, I was pretty happy with how these turned out. I had feet on all the macarons, the outer shell was slightly crispy and the interior was cooked but still light and airy inside. The flavours from the fillings came through without being overwhelming. Delicious!

A big thanks to H and his family for the Kitchen Aid – I’m sure I’ll get lots of use out of it! And if macarons are too delicate and twee for your sensibilities – don’t worry, I’ll make sure the pig’s ears are posted soon!


1. gs - September 3, 2010

They’re beautiful! Little pastel works of art.

inspiredbywolfe - September 4, 2010

Thanks gs! I was happy with how they cam out even though they weren’t perfect. I’m going to try them again this weekend – it may become an obsession!

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